Standardized Tests Create Unnecessary Stress

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Standardized Tests Create Unnecessary Stress

Testing can make students paranoid and it feels as though the clock is ticking down faster and faster.

Testing can make students paranoid and it feels as though the clock is ticking down faster and faster.

Mckenzie Smith

Testing can make students paranoid and it feels as though the clock is ticking down faster and faster.

Mckenzie Smith

Mckenzie Smith

Testing can make students paranoid and it feels as though the clock is ticking down faster and faster.

Madelyn Drohan, Reporter

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No more standardized tests!

The familiar feelings of nervousness and anxiety cloud students as the season of testing falls upon us at West Springfield High School. Many people believe that standardized testing is beneficial for students and the school district in general. It, however, adds unnecessary stress and anxiety. The pressure that students are under throughout high school drastically affects their well being. 

       The amount of testing students experience weighs down on their shoulders and makes them worry about their grades far too often. Speaking from personal experience, thinking about the amount of tests I have is overwhelming, and as an athlete, I find it hard to juggle all of my homework, practice, making time to study, making sure I eat, and get to bed on time. 

Ever since I was in second grade, I have struggled with school. It wasn’t until fourth grade that I was evaluated for a learning disorder. It is difficult for me to fully understand a topic; I like to focus on the little details, and I don’t process the big picture. When it comes to tests and quizzes, I don’t exactly study because I just don’t know how to; I don’t know what the best way for me to fully understand a certain topic and do well on a test, so I just wing it and try my best to remember. As you can imagine, this doesn’t always work out in my favor. When I am taking a test, more often than not, I blank on a lot of the things I’ve learned. “While I’m taking a test, most of the time I am worrying about failing, so I forget what I am supposed to be doing and end up making silly mistakes that I could’ve easily gotten right in class,” said Molly Ivers, a junior at WSHS. As a person that stresses easily and is often anxious about everything, taking tests and quizzes so frequently does not help me all that much. 

For me, the best way to prepare for tests is to take a step back from everything, distract myself for a short period of time, or talk it out with my mom. I don’t exactly have any strategies to help with my studying habits, but I always remind myself that my grades do not define me. As much as we are told grades are important, they don’t define who you are and can’t determine your intelligence or talent. We are tested so often that if we let every bad grade take a toll on our mental health, our generation would grow to have an even more challenging future.

According to the Education Writers Association (EWA), students spend ten days taking district-mandated tests and nine days taking state-mandated tests out for the school year. On top of testing days, there is on average 14 days spent preparing for these tests. My question is, why do we spend so much time testing? As much as standardized testing was created to figure out what improvement needed to be made in American education, there is no purpose for them now. The only point there is to standardized tests is to gather statistics, not to educate students. “These assessments carry important consequences for students, teachers, and schools: low scores can prevent a student from progressing to the next grade level or lead to teacher firings and school closures,” said ProCon.org. As time has gone on, standardized testing has done the opposite of its original intentions.

Back in 2002, when the No Child Left Behind Act went into effect, the goal was to make schools accountable for student achievement. Requiring standardized tests was how they measured the achievement of students and schools. The Bush administration wanted to close the gap of academic achievement between privileged and minority groups. Although the passing of this act had good intentions, it ended up doing the opposite. In 2000, the United States was ranked 18th in math, 14th in science, and 15th in reading in the world. As of 2015, the United States is ranked 40th in math, 25th in science, and 24th in reading.  So why spend so much time testing if it is evidently not doing its job properly?

Finland used to be similar to the United States, in terms of education, but has since become the third leading country for education in the world. How? They got rid of standardized testing, which evidently improved students’ mental health and success rate in their school career. There are also countries that have a more challenging education than we do, such as China. This year, between June 7th and June 9th, Chinese students take the gaokao, their version of the American SAT. It is known to be one of the hardest tests in the entire world and like the SATs, students take this test to be accepted into colleges. Although China’s education is ranked number one in the world, there is so much pressure on the students to be nothing short of successful.

According to a study in the Washington Post, the average student spends about 257.3 hours on standardized testing throughout their entire schooling career (pre-K to 12); the grade with the most amount of hours spent testing being eighth grade, testing for 25.3 hours. It is crazy how long and often a student is tested during their school careers. “I think that we are over-tested and I think it’s ridiculous,” said Dylann Terlik, a junior at WSHS. Almost every day, I hear students talking about a past or upcoming test that they are stressed about and it has become the only common thing among all students. It has been almost 200 years since standardized testing was brought to the United States, and the problems are not the same, in education, like it was in the 1800s. Granted, it is statistically proven that more often than not, minority groups as a whole, perform worse on tests. All test scores, no matter the race, have dropped a significant amount in the past twenty years.

As much as preparing for a test is stressful for students, it’s also stressful for teachers. “It is always difficult to make sure all of the students understand all of the topics. Different students have different strengths. For example, some students are good visual learners and may find geometric transformations easy, while other students find it a challenge. It is hard to keep the pace while expecting every student to understand,” said Ms. Fay, the head of the math department at WSHS. Since it has become apparent that not all students learn the same way, it is hard for teachers to be able to assess everyone’s needs at all times which can obviously irritate students. The amount a test can weigh on your grade can be even more frustrating for students; someone can get 100s on all classwork and homework but a 70 on a test and their grade would drop drastically. It is unfair that a single test can significantly affect your grade when you try your hardest.

Not only does testing have a negative mental effect on a student, such as depression, anxiety, and stress, but it also trumps them physically. “I feel nauseous, my head pounds, and my chest feels like it’s closing in on itself,” said Emma Counter, a senior at WSHS. Furthermore, why put students through distress and unneeded anxiety when it is proven that students don’t need so many tests or homework in order to be successful in life? This is what administrators in education drill into your head from such a young age. In Finland, students don’t have any standardized testing and they have, overall, the most positive mental health in the world. 

A change needs to happen in our education, and it needs to happen now. Future generations shouldn’t have to grow up with the normality of being sad on a daily basis or dread going to school because of the constant stress of being there. This is our education and we deserve to be able to enjoy our time while we’re trying to figure out what to do for the rest of our lives. It is an unreasonable expectation to constantly throw tests our way, expect us to pass them, enjoy school, and be mentally stable by the time we graduate from college. At the end of the day, we are still kids and have so many more responsibilities in our daily lives.